Put Your Back Into It!



For most fighters and coaches, it comes natural to focus on increasing arm and upper body strength when you want to increase punching power, muscular endurance and overall ring performance.  The only problem is, in reality, that’s only one part of a bigger equation.

Fighters who are intent on enhancing their punching power and muscular recruitment should be targeting their glutes and lower back as much as they are their upper body.  These are the support muscles that help to stabilize your core, generate force, and also help you to absorb punches.

The glutes are an integral part of building a solid foundation.  They help produce well-grounded power by allowing you to sit down properly on your punches and drive off the ground to generate leverage/force in your delivery.  When you build your butt muscles and your lower back together, you are utilizing two of the largest muscle groups in your body and it affords you the ability to call on your leg strength when you're getting tired.

There are a number of exercises you can incorporate into your routine to improve in both of these two areas. One is the single leg dumbbell squat.  To perform this movement, balance on one leg and with a dumbbell in the opposite hand, bend at the knee.  With that opposite hand, touch the dumbbell (use a weight that is manageable) to the ground on the inside of the foot. Return to a standing position.  Be sure to bend with your leg and not your waist.  This is effective because it requires stabilization, single leg strength, balance and coordination.

Another exercise is forward squat jumps.  To perform these, you simply rock forward onto your toes, bend your knees into a deep squatted position and propel yourself upward, forward and out away from where you started. These can be done in succession, covering some distance, or singularly, doing one and then returning to the starting position and doing another.  This is not only geared towards developing leg strength, but can also help in gaining explosiveness.

In either case, with the single leg dumbbell squat or squat jumps, you're on your feet when performing both of these exercises, so they simultaneously enhance hip, knee and ankle strength. They also involve recruitment of the lower back muscles and that will help create a solid connection between those and your core.

You can also focus exclusively on the lower back with hyper-extensions.  You can do these by lying on the floor, face down, with your hands clasped behind your head.  Keeping your toes planted on the ground, bend backwards in an arching motion so that you are looking upwards at the wall or ceiling. Try to extend backwards as far as you can and perform the movement in a methodical, controlled fashion.  You can build up to doing a number of high repetitions of this exercise or add a moderate amount of weight as the exercise becomes easier to perform.

By adding a few simple exercises into your routine, that focus primarily on the larger muscle groups - your glutes and back, you will be creating a more solid foundation.  Whether it’s for maximizing your punching power or standing your ground, there’s no substitute for making the most of your biggest assets…no ifs and or butts about it.

Doug Ward is the President and Trainer for the Underground Boxing Company.